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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Elliot Pasik: Two Building Solution

My last guest post on tuition created a bit of discussion in the comments. Another idea that is being floated in regards to tuition comes from the New York State Yeshiva Parents Association lead by Elliot Pasik. In a February 2007 letter to various NYS Senators and Committee Chairs, the association writes these points about the cost of Yeshiva Education and how the NY governments can partner with religious parents to help alleviate the costs associated with a Yeshiva/Day School Education. (Note: This is NOT a push for a miracle such as vouchers. It is a long read for a blog post, but please hang in there. . . especially since I couldn't remember how to copy text from a PDF document and I typed this manually. . . . thank goodness I type fast, my parents insisted I take typing in summer school, which I did more than once). And, of course, add your comments.
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8. The tuition burden for nonpublic religious school parents is well past the breaking point. The norm is for middle-class orthodox Jewish families, with two full-time working parents, and three-to-six children, annually paying between twenty and forty thousand dollars per year, every year, for k-12 yeshiva/Hebrew day school education. This backbreaking tuition burden contributes to numerous negative social consequences including, debt, substance abuse, family instability, divorce, and kids-at-risk. The Jewish media is filled with recent articles addressing the yeshiva tuition problem, but unfortunately, little of practical nature is being done on a comprehensive basis. See, “The Tuition Squeeze: Paying the Price of Jewish Education”, Jewish Action, Fall 2005, Vol. 66, No. 1 (published by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America); “The Tuition Dilemma”, The Jewish Observer, Jan/Feb. 2007, Vol. 40, No. 1 (published by Agudath Israel of America)’ Pasik, “Resolving the Tuition Crisis”, The Jewish Press, January 11, 2006, p. 1.

Government intervention, through the rule of law, can help. Public schools are, of course, required to reveal their finances, budgets, and salaries. Public scrutiny and Government oversight can and has led to taxpayer savings, and wiser spending.

Nonpublic religious schools should be subject to the same rules of financial transparency. Again, as required by law, education, whether public or nonpublic, is a public trust. How can nonpublic school parents determine whether their hard-earned tuition money is being wisely spent unless we see the financial books and records? How can the professional parents amongst us, with backgrounds in business and accounting, make suggests that will reduce spending, and lower tuition? Financial transparency is simply common sense.

9. The tuition burden for orthodox Jewish families can also be alleviated by a “two-building” solution for many. The First Amendment clearly prohibits religious instruction within public school buildings during the school day (McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 203 (1948)), but there is no constitutional impediment for religious children studying secular subjects (e.g., arithmetic, reading, spelling, etc.) in public schools during, let’s say, the morning hours, and religious subjects in a yeshiva building in the afternoon. A two-building program like this could cut religious school tuitions by nearly half, and revitalize numerous public school districts by brining in new students. Educ. Law 3210(b) provides that, “Absense for religious observance and education shall be permitted under rules that the commissioner shall establish.” Under this statute, it would appear that public school districts could arrange for a program for the children of religious families to attend public schools for the study of essential secular subjects for a portion of the day, and then release them for religious education.

The is, however, a regulatory obstacle. Rule 109.2 of the Rules of the Commissioner of Education (8 N.Y.C.R.R. 109.2(e)) onerously provides that released time for religious education shall be a maximum of one hour per week. The rule states, “(A)bsense for a released time program, grade K-12, shall be for not more than one hour each week. . . “

We believe this is a patently unconstitutional regulation, that interferes with the First Amendment guarantee of Free Exercise of Religion. One hour per week for the study of the Jewish religion is simply not enough. We would expect that members of other faiths may feel the same about their religious educational needs.

Released time for religious instruction was held to be constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in, Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306 (1952), affg. 303 N.Y. 161. Justice William O. Douglas wrote the following, for the majority:

“We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being. When the State encourages religious instruction or cooperates with religious authorities by adjusting the schedule of public events to sectarian needs, it then follows the best of our traditions, for it then respects the religious nature of our people and accommodates the public services to their spiritual needs. To hold that is may not would be to find in the Constitution a requirement that the government show a callous indifference to religious group. That would be preferring those who believe in no religious over those who do believe. We find no constitutional requirement which makes it necessary for government to be hostile to religion and throw its weight against efforts to widen the effective scope of religious influence.”

According to the web site, ReleasedTime.org, 31 states do not establish any hourly maximum for religious study released time. These 31 states flexibly allow public school districts to establish their own policies. Only 9 state, including New York, set a rock bottom maximum of one hour per week. The remaining states establish varying amounts of maximum released time.

We respectfully submit that New York should repeal its rule limiting religious study released time to one hour per week. New York, with its long history of commitment to civil liberties and civil rights, should joint he majority of those states that wisely allow local school districts to flexibly establish their own policies and rules, and thereby meet local needs. This would be particularly appropriate in New York, where we have significant orthodox Jewish populations venued in certain regions and neighborhoods throughout New York City, Long Island, Westchester, and Rockland County. Local school districts arranging for a “two-building” program could simultaneously alleviate the tuition crunch facing orthodox Jewish and other religious families, and revitablize their public schools. The recent October 24, 2006 annoucement by the U.S. Department of Educaiton that same-sex public schools will be allowed under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 gives impetus to this proposal. Orthodox Jewish children, and children of other faiths, can thereby partially attend same-sex public schools for the study of required secular subjects, without compromising their beliefs.

10. Finally, we support Gove. Spitzer’s proposal of $1,000 per child tuition tax credits for nonpublic school parents. This proposal can do much to alleviate the crushing tuition burden faced by nonpublic religious school families.

53 comments:

Charlie Hall said...

" there is no constitutional impediment for religious children studying secular subjects (e.g., arithmetic, reading, spelling, etc.) in public schools during, let’s say, the morning hours, and religious subjects in a yeshiva building in the afternoon. "

This used to be very common. It was called a "Talmud Torah". Some frum people of my generation went through it. I know someone about my age who went to Bronx High School of Science (you can't get much better than that) and then went after school to a very intensive program taught by the rebbes of a local yeshiva. It was the same level as that of the full day yeshiva students, just fewer hours. But AFAIK there are no such Talmud Torahs still in existence.

" same-sex public schools will be allowed under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 "

There will be few such schools because of the high costs. You might be able to do it in New York City because we have so many school buildings and low property taxes, but no suburban school district will be able to propose this and get the necessarily higher budget passed, increasing the already outrageous property taxes. (Well, maybe doing this in Lawrence would convince the frum parents to vote for the budget for the first time in years?)

"Orthodox Jewish children, and children of other faiths, can thereby partially attend same-sex public schools"

There are many co-ed Orthodox schools, so this should not be such a major concern. Many great rabbis went to co-ed schools (even public schools).

Regardless, I thank Mr. Pasik for finally coming up with a new idea for doing something about the high cost of Jewish education -- and one that might be more realistic than vouchers or tax credits. I sincerely hope something comes of it and that my critiques help move it forward.

twinsmommy said...

Are we talking about the students attending a full day of public school and then 3-4 hours of yeshiva afterwards?? Students getting home after dinner time and having maybe 1 hour with their parents before bed? That would take children away from their families even more than the current situation (having my children attend school on Sunday is something I'm truly not yet prepared to tolerate!)

Or are we talking about getting kids out of half of a public school day by playing the religious discrimination card? If I were trying to run a public school I'd be mighty peeved that a whole slew of frummies were planning to take off in the middle of the day so I'd have to revamp the whole schedule to include all "essential" courses for those students for certain hours. No wasted time in study hall, electives, or even music, chas v'shalom, all things pertinent to the modern public school.

Either way, I don't know that I like the idea--- either the kids are spending less and less time with their parents and siblings (and less time exercising, enjoying the outdoors, and playing with friends)..... or the public schools are having to revamp schedules and allow our kids a pass on subjects they have every right to require to allow them to graduate. How about those classmates, Joey and Rob, who see Shmulie and Yaakov leave mid day to go to yeshiva? Shmulie and Yaakov still graduate with their class, but have missed 1:00 to 4:00 classes, WHATEVER they may be, for years. Joey and Rob are going to cry that it's unfair, and it is!

So, convince me--- because I DO want to save money on tuition somehow! :)

Mo'ah Kemo Efro'ah said...

TWINSMOMMY:

"If I were trying to run a public school I'd be mighty peeved that a whole slew of frummies were planning to take off in the middle of the day so I'd have to revamp the whole schedule"

i don't know where you live, but in the metro ny area there are school neighborhoods where a majority of the children are from orthodox families. in such a situation it is not playing a card to demand that the schedule be reorganized.

DR. HALL:

"There are many co-ed Orthodox schools, so this should not be such a major concern."

actually i think even in the MO world the ideal of co-education is on the decline.

"This used to be very common. It was called a 'Talmud Torah.'"

one of the great advances of american jewish life is the triumph of the day school movement. your friend may have attended a good TT, but most failed to prove their worth.

Mike S. said...

I wonder though whether the problem with the classical talmud torah was that most of the parents, and therefore the students, were not serious about Torah learning, rather than an inherent problem with the format. I say this because I attended one, and in the early years (say, up to Bar Mitzvah age) there was a mix of serious kids and kids who would rather have been anywhere else. As a result, progress was uneven, and I am sure it was unpleasant to teach there. However, after Bar Mitzvah the uninterested dropped out, and learning was much more intensed and focussed.

Anonymous in Teaneck said...

SephardiLady -

What happened to points 1-7?

Thanks.

SephardiLady said...

"writes these points about the cost of Yeshiva Education"

I cut out the other points about safety in schools, etc. All excellent points. But I'm just concentrating on costs.

Larry Lennhoff said...

Meanwhile, in Canada ...
If elected premier on Oct. 10, Mr. Tory has promised to give private religious schools $400-million if they opt into the public system.

He says that move will subject the schools to provincial inspection, thereby ensuring students receive a more well-rounded education while still allowing schools to teach their core beliefs.

There are about 100 faith-based private schools across the province, with an enrolment of 53,000 students.

DAG said...

I don't think we need Government to force yeshivas to open their books. We should demand that as a community. We have the power to boycott schools (and religious organizations) that refuse to open their books or publish their 990's.

Most Orthodox schools (and organizations) ARE 501 (C) 3's. They are in the communal trust. We have the RIGHT to know how they spend their tax deductible finances. We should NEVER allow them to hide behind their religious affiliation to avoid publishing their 990's.

It is inconceivable that we allow Rabbis with not formal organizational or educational training to run multi -million dollar enterprises supported by our community dollars with ZERO oversight.
This is very simple. Boycott schools that hide their financial information. Do not enroll your children and do not give them any financial support.

Do NOT give a penny to ANY organization that does not have full regulatory Board oversight, a certified audit available upon request, and a published 990.

We cannot sustain this waste any longer. This has gone on long enough. How many HUNDREDS of Millions of dollars do we have to squander before we put a stop to this? There WILL be an accounting in the Olam Hemes for our communal money. There should be one in this world as well. Me La'Hashem Ali

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this, Sephardi Lady, who is consistently among the elite of Jewish bloggers.

All of the comments are very good. I'm at work, and busy as usual, but let me quickly reply to a few:

As one former Riverdalian to a current one, Dr. Hall makes an apt historic analogy to the many afternoon Talmud Torah schools that existed years ago. Coincidentally, I'm one such product. I attended the Talmud Torah at the orthodox Kingsbridge Hts. Jewish Center in the Bronx, and later went to the same Bronx Science H.S. that Dr. Hall mentions. (Later, I went to Ohr Somayach, Israel, after college.) However, the Talmud Torahs of those years were mostly very poor. The teachers were unmotivated, poorly trained, and often not frum. Most of the children and their families were not frum. That day and age was also pre-Art Scroll - the English seforim were scarce and of mixed quality. The Talmud Torah schedule was also very weak - one hour per day, anywhere from one to four days per week. That one hour was held after the typical 9-3 public school day.

The two-building solution could be either limudei kodesh in the morning, followed by secular in the afternoon, or vice-versa. The chinuch scene is much different than what it was in the Bronx in the 1960s. The rebbes are smarter, and motivated, and the English seforim scene has also changed, its plentiful, and much of it is quite good.

If our community were to have the will, this idea is doable. Might some public school students resent it when Moshe has a different schedule than he does? I'll concede maybe, but that's life, and the U.S. Supreme Court says, Its legal. I get some looks for envy, and I'm sure some others do also, when I leave early on Friday afternoons (TGIS, Thank G-d its Shabbos.)

The hallmark of America is freedom, and right now, we frum parents have too few choices in educating our children. We need greater freedom.

Another possibility is a combination of yeshiva and home schooling. Moshe goes to yeshiva for limudei kodesh from 8-1; Mom or designated driver picks him up and brings him home; Mom or tutor teaches Moshe secular subjects. Yeshiva charges Moshe's parents 1/2 the customary yeshiva pricetag.
Parents could also organize and set up mini-secular classes in people's homes, where the instruction is given by retired teachers, or just some smart adults who are not working at other jobs.

Getting these different ideas off the drawing board, and into action is the hard part. Our parent community needs to organize.....

Elliot Pasik

DAG said...

I was thinking..a LOT of communities have a Vaad Hatzadaka that prescreens meshulucim so the individual donor does not need to...why not establish a national Vaad Hatzadakahs that certifies those schools and organizations that meet the minimal requirements of financial responsibility? We could develop National standards and have a FULL certification process subject to 6 month renewal..

This CAN be done...

Anonymous said...

dag -

Good idea above, in theory. Can't be done. Why? We Jews alone can't even kick out the sex offenders from our yeshivas. Just like everybody else, we're poor at self-regulating. I tried, and failed. Only when the Government became our "partner" did I partially succeed. Financial disclosure and accountability need to be imposed from the outside.

Elliot Pasik

DAG said...

I'll tell you why I disagree with you, Elliot. We are horrible at self regulation BEACUSE we are unable to enforce our own decisions. The Vaad Hatzadokahs model worked BECAUSE they provided a valuable, commonsense service. Once the idea caught on, NO ONE could successfully collect door to door without them.

Org theory 101, the primary mission and goal of any organization is the organization's survival. The rules that govern the behaviors that GIVE organizations the legitimacy (that allow them to flourish) COME from (and must come from) the outside. Google isomorphism.

The ENTIRE Religious Jewish organizational structure is dependent on Tzedaka dollars...USUALLY obtained from Modern Orthodox businessmen who have a LOT of business sense. If we get THEM to sign on and to demand that THEIR money is well spent, Jewish organizations will be FORCED to comply with these new rules...or fail...and given those choices, they WILL comply.

This isn't an overnight solution, but we CAN (I'd say we must) change our organizational paradigm.

I even have a name for this Vaad...U'Vechol Moedecha.

Baruch said...

"The norm is for middle-class orthodox Jewish families, with two full-time working parents, and three-to-six children, annually paying between twenty and forty thousand dollars per year, every year, for k-12 yeshiva/Hebrew day school education"

That is really cheap - where do I sign up - i am paying almost triple that for three kids - high schools range from $16,000 to $23,000

Again where do I sign up to pay $20,000 for three kids ?

Mo'ah Kemo Efro'ah said...

DAG:

"I don't think we need Government to force yeshivas to open their books. We should demand that as a community. We have the power to boycott schools (and religious organizations) that refuse to open their books or publish their 990's."

i think you are 100% correct that there needs to be more financial transparency with the schools (and other communal organizations and charities as well). but it will not happen. many orthodox jews are more worried about fitting into the community than going against it. and in the rw community your proposal is a smack in the face to rabbonim and daas torah.

even for those for whom these are not issues, there might still be hesitancy to agitate for this. who wants to be known as a difficult parent and risk alienating his/her children in the school.

twinsmommy said...

Elliot Pasik:

"Parents could also organize and set up mini-secular classes in people's homes, where the instruction is given by retired teachers, or just some smart adults who are not working at other jobs."

Do we have any lawyers commenting here? I'm curious to know what kinds of problems parents doing this sort of thing could be facing vis a vis setting up what is essentially a religious charter school with no charter. Would each parent be required to file an intent to homeschool? And then what happens when it's found out that it's a group co-op homeschool essentially? If they legally go through the charter school system to set up a secular charter school beginning in a home and run it as sort of a co-op operation, would it be legal if there were absolutely NO RELIGIOUS component whatsoever? What about the fact that 100% of the students would also be attending yeshiva? I don't really understand the nuances of all this, not having kids in school yet.

But heck, if it's legal and do-able and someone else does the years of legwork to organize this here in Cleveland I'd be happy to get a level A lisence and be a teacher for this secular homeschool program. I already have a masters in ed and teaching experience. But I'm sooo not interested in the minutia and long hours it would take to set this up.

But of course, as all things, it would begin in New York and take years to reach the midwest. :)

Mo'ah kemo efro'ah --- I'm in Cleveland. Public schools in certain areas in New York really have close to 100% Orthodox students??? I hardly know any Orthodox kids who don't go to day school. Or just close to 100% Orthodox children in the community in which the school resides and each school busses in the only non frummies from far and wide? That must be difficult.

Mo'ah Kemo Efro'ah said...

TWINSMOMMY:

"Public schools in certain areas in New York really have close to 100% Orthodox students???"

i wasn't clear. it is the school districts (not the actual school enrollment) that are heavily jewish. and maybe not 100%, but a majority or strong minority. for example, my friends in woodmere tell me that the only reason the local public schools stay open is because of bussing; there would not be enough local public school children to keep such large schools open.

DAG said...

Moa....let it be a smack...I've seen RW organizations that quote Rav Gifter ZTL as saying that the Board should not even be able to decide what kind of copy paper to use in the copy machine because they don't represent Daas Torah....

The point is, if there is no money backing them, they will HAVE to adjust.

SephardiLady said...

TwinsMommy-I see no legal issue with combining co-op'ing, homeschooling, and 1/2 day Yeshiva. The government wants to ensure students are receiving the three R's. Anything in addition (learning, karate, etc, is just that: in addition).

EVERY homeschooler I've ever met (Jewish and not) utilizes outside resouces to "homeschool" (a misnomber if I've ever heard one.

Our school district offers night public school I believe. This is also another possible avenue available if Yeshivot would have a kodesh only option. (Quite frankly I see many good arguments for such and will try to present some thoughts later).

Thank you for your kind words Elliot Pasik.

twinsmommy said...

right but when is it parents trying to give their kids what they need and when is it encroaching (sp?) on charter school territory? An outside resource of an individual tutor for an individual child is very different than a whole group of parents hiring one parent to teach their kids.

Night public school--- again, when would children spend any time with their parents and siblings?

Ahavah B. said...

As far as getting the Cheredi schools to open up their books for scrutiny - well, good luck with that.

The problem with "partnering" with the public school is that the religious parents would basically be insisting that they have the right to insist that the public schools develop a special half-day program exclusively for Jewish kids that covers the same basic academic material that the rest of the kids in the school spend all day covering. The odds of that are absolutely zero. And if you think that the secular parents hate us now, just wait until somebody suggests this to the Education commissioner -they'll be up in arms about how high their taxes are already and how their kids aren't being served properly and now there will be extra expenses for a special program with separate teachers (after all, the regular teachers already have full day class schedules) for religious kids. This idea has nowhere to go but down.

Anonymous said...

Ahava b. -

Respectfully disagree. Cynicism and negativity are our worst enemies. We pay taxes too. We pay taxes for a secular education that we are not receiving. As a tiny religious minority in the United States, we have legal rights that we are not asserting. We have every legal, moral, and ethical right to approach our State officials, and ask for an accommodation - particularly in view of our history. Only sixty years, one third of our people were murdered. Starting from scratch, we've had to rebuild in
America our institutions that were destroyed in Europe. Why should we not ask for and receive the secular educational services to which we're so clearly entitled as American citizens?

Elliot Pasik

Anonymous said...

Mr. Pasik,

You are entitled and may receive secular education for your children - in public schools. Public education is not a commodity; parents may not pick and choose what and when their children will study. That is why it is public education; the state mandates and the state provides.

baruch said...

Anonymous-who posted Friday Night at 9-7-07 -at 7:53 PM

Please hear me loud and clear WE PAY TAXES

WE PAY STATE INCOME TAXES WE PAY REAL ESTATE TAXES - that is where "public" money comes from

Anonymous said...

sure, we pay taxes for a fire department as well. Does that mean that a small group of Jews get to decide to make changes to our local fire department as well?

baruch said...

To Anon 9-8-07

It means that all people -even jews have to be serviced by the fire department - if a fire breaks out in a jew's home the fire department must put it out - even if the jew has many seforim in his home or two sinks

Jews are not asking the government to pay for torah classes - only for math, science, english and everything else they pay for other children - this is exactly the way it works in the UK and in France

Anonymous said...

Baruch has got it right, but the comments going the other way have are very helpful in crystalizing the debate.

We have to go back to basics. "We the People..." - famous opening words of the U.S. Constitution - are the Government. We are citizens in a democratic government, not a royal government. Our heads of states are the democratically-elected President of the federal government, Mr. Bush, and our democratically-elected N.Y.S. Governor, Mr. Spitzer. No kings allowed. In a democracy, "We the People" are Sovereign. In our democracy, we religious minority parents have a strong argument for our elected officials that our State and local education departments should construct a half-day secular education format for our children. At lunchtime, we march them across the street to the yeshiva for the half-day of limudei kodesh (or vice-versa). Why not? Both in common law, and in natural law, parents have near total dominion over their children, in terms of child raising, religion, education, shelter, food, health care, decision making. We should begin to persuade our state and local education officials that a two-building program is feasible.

In fact, two states - Pennsylvania, and I think Rhode Island - once constructed a program where the their state governments agreed to pay the cost of secular teachers' salaries in private religious schools. Unfortunately, those state laws were declared unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court in Lemon v. Kurtzman in 1971 - an "excessive entanglement" of government and religion, violating the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

So the next step is, Why not two separate buildings. You therefore avoid the excessive entanglement. See my point?

Elliot Pasik

SephardiLady said...

It is really late and I'm headed to bed (Rosh Hashana preps!).

A few points:

1. I know a "homeschooling" Jewish family that did enroll one of their children part time in the local public elementary school. This girl only attended for part of the day. The curriculum did not need to be adjusted; the family worked their schedules around the parts of school she attended.

At the high school level, I see no reason why a student can't attend part day. Already, there are students attending part day because they are involved in a vocational track where their work counts towards their credits, or the high school cannot accomodate the advanced classes that they need and they are released early so they can attend junior college part time.

I see benefit to letting the Yeshivot deal with Kodesh and "outsourcing" the general studies. There are plenty of potential avenues available. And as a taxpayer I see no reason why these avenues should not be pursued.

Mo'ah Kemo Efro'ah said...

Elliot Pasik:

"We have every legal, moral, and ethical right to approach our State officials, and ask for an accommodation - particularly in view of our history. Only sixty years, one third of our people were murdered. Starting from scratch, we've had to rebuild in
America our institutions that were destroyed in Europe"

i really don't see what the shoah has to do with this.

"Why should we not ask for and receive the secular educational services to which we're so clearly entitled as American citizens?"

now this is a different issue. but local governments (or the federal one, for that matter) do not owe us anything as jews per se. just as americans.

Mo'ah Kemo Efro'ah said...

DAG:

"We have the power to boycott schools (and religious organizations) that refuse to open their books or publish their 990's."

there was a segment on the israeli news tonight advising people to verify the non-profit status of tzedakas before contributing.

Mo'ah Kemo Efro'ah said...

DAG:

"let it be a smack"

i just don't think the public is ready to give that smack.

Mo'ah Kemo Efro'ah said...

BARUCH:

"this is exactly the way it works in the UK and in France"

what does the example of government subsidies for religious schools in europe have to do with the question in america? there are fundamental differences between legal systems in america and europe that preclude drawing on one as an example for the other.

besides, the jewish schools in europe and france have nothing to do with the "two-building" formula that was presented

Mo'ah Kemo Efro'ah said...

SL:

"It is really late"

your fans await you. no excuses.

(but שנה טובה)

mrmoose said...

Dag

I think you are right and if you are willing to press this issue and make your kids the first korban I'd consider backing you and making mine the second........

DAG said...

Mrmoose..what we need is some big donors to sign on.

Anonymous said...

Comparing the American non-system of funding for religious schools to other Western nations is valid if only for the simple reason that we can learn from other nations who share a Judeo-Christian heritage, and the common-law.

Much of the American legal hostility to government funding of any aspect of religious school education comes from, 1, the Blaine Amendment experience, and 2, overly strict Supreme Court interpretation of the First Amendment Establishment clause.

I'm far from a scholar in this area, but Blaine was a Protestant, anti-Catholic politician of about a century or so ago who successfully advocated that States do not fund any aspect of private, religious education. Many State Constitutions, including New York, include Blaine Amendments which rigidly prohibit such funding. In a few states, these Blaine Amendments are being challenged, with mixed results.

Meanwhile, the US Supreme Court has been inconsistent in its First Amendment Establishment Clause cases. ("The government shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion..."). The court says the government can fund busing and computers for religious schools; but in the Lemon case, the government can't pay the salaries of secular study teachers teaching in religious schools. There are other examples.

So what can we do? I say, two buildings, thereby expanding the "released time program" held to be constitutional by the Supreme Court in 1954 in the Zorach case, cited in my letter. My son is an eighth grader. From 2-5 every afternoon, he studies secular subjects, without break, being given in his yeshiva. Why am I paying for this? Let the state and local governments construct a program so that he and his fellow classmates can walk across the street, to a separate government owned building, where he can be taught math, science, etc., by government paid teachers. You thereby avoid the "excessive entanglement with religion" problem cited in the Lemon case.

Someone asks, How is the Holocaust relevant? How is slavery and pervasive discrimination against blacks through the 1960s and beyond relevant to the education and overall treatment of black Americans? Same question for Native American Indians. Do we not have English as a Second Language courses for new, struggling American immigrants from Latin countries? History is relevant. We Jews are the most persecuted minority in history. We need to open our eyes and understand that our current American legal design, whether intended or not, economically discriminates against us, to our great detriment - think 50 per cent intermarriage rate, and 90 per cent of American Jewry non orthodox. We can do something about it, if only we exert the will.

Elliot Pasik

DAG said...

Elliot....you are paying for that secular education because you opted out of the Public School system...and that was 100% your choice.

There is no comparison between slavery and the genocidal policies imposed on Native Americans in THIS country and the Holocaust and the persecution of Jews in OTHER countries. If I sat on a School Board and the Holocaust was used as a justification for creating special programs for Jewish students, I would kindly remind the supplicant that it was the people of THIS country who scarified life and limb liberating the Jews of Europe.

You mentioned bilingual education. Do we really want to advocate the victimology that has stifled generations of children in America, especially given the overwhelming success Jews have experienced in the US. Jews have NOT been treated unfairly in the United States. Victim status may bring some short term financial relief but it is NOT worth the social costs.

I am still convinced that we have MORE than enough money to educate all of our children in Orthodox schools AND support our social service organizations. We need to accept the responsibility for the misappropriation of funds based on ill conceived communal priorities (universal Kollel, etc) and the inexcusable waste of our communal money by unregulated, unsupervised, unaccountable and too often, grossly incompetent Rabbis who do not have even the most basic sense of how to run an organization or a budget.

Rome is burning. Let's put down the fiddles and fight the fire. We can all start THIS week. Sort through the stacks of appeals you have received from Tzedaka organizations over the past few weeks, look them up at guidestar.org and THROW OUT the solicitation from ANY organization that does NOT have a published 990.

Anonymous said...

Dag - I'll respond to the "choice" argument you make in the first paragraph. Its the argument that the public school monopolists and teachers' unions frequently make. You opted for private school, its your choice, you pay for it.

But don't you see? Its a rotten choice! It stinks! By majority rule, you're choking the life out of the Jewish and other minority religions who want to educate their children in religious schools. Remember, pre-the 1971 Lemon case, the people of Pennsylvania and Rhode Island gave their religious minorities a fairer choice - they agreed to pay the salaries of the religious school secular study teachers. Lemon struck those state laws down, however.

Fortunately, Dag, you're one vote, and there are others out there. I would argue that democracy is all about fundamental fairness. I believe our orthodox Jewish minority community has a compelling argument to make when we say that we'll pay for the Torah studies, but as full fledged, tax paying American citizens, the Government should pay for our secular studies in a separate building.

That every other Western nation in the world has a fairer system for educating its religious minorities speaks volumes.

By the way, on the books in New York State is a law that requires Holocaust education for all children - and also the study of African American slavery. I think this is wise.

Elliot Pasik

Mo'ah Kemo Efro'ah said...

Elliot Pasik:

"Someone asks, How is the Holocaust relevant? How is slavery and pervasive discrimination against blacks through the 1960s and beyond relevant to the education and overall treatment of black Americans? . . ."

i was that someone.

affirmative action programs are a hot potato. many americans object to them, and this includes the (overwhelming?) majority of orthodox jews. so i don't think we should be using affirmative action precedents in this instance.

the controversy over affirmative action aside, the fundamental basis of it is that america as a state and as a people systematically persecuted these peoples, which has contributed to their current "abject" status. jews have never been systematically persecuted in america, especially not to the extent of relegating us to an economic, political and social underclass.

in fact, jews have probably never lived in such comfort as we have lived in america. so to state that

"We Jews are the most persecuted minority in history"

is irrelevant. america is not responsible for this and it owes us nothing. i hate to say this, but imho to assert specifically that we have a claim against the board of education because america owes us in the wake of the holocaust is to validate the thesis of norman finkelstein (yimach shemo ve-zikhrono).

Mo'ah Kemo Efro'ah said...

Elliot Pasik:

"That every other Western nation in the world has a fairer system for educating its religious minorities speaks volumes."

not really.

since when do we as a minority (both as jews and americans) judge ourselves by the canon of what the rest of the world does?

Mo'ah Kemo Efro'ah said...

"Comparing the American non-system of funding for religious schools to other Western nations is valid if only for the simple reason that we can learn from other nations who share a Judeo-Christian heritage, and the common-law."

1) let's leave the debatable rhetoric about a "shared judeo-christian heritage" aside.
2) as far as i am aware, the only european country with common law that subsidizes jewish education is england. continental european jurisprudence is not based on common law. so what do we have in common with it that we could learn from it?
3) you are talking about a two building proposal to skirt the first amendment. this is not what is done in europe in any case, so what are learning from them?

Anonymous said...

The two-building idea is not an affirmative action nor entitlement program. We would not be asking for set aside quotas, nor any other type of special rights. We're just asking for the services that our taxes are paying for.

New York State has a compulsory education statute. Parents MUST educate their children in certain delineated subjects: reading, math, science, etc. Either you send your child to a public school, private school, or home school him, and educate him in these required subjects - or you are breaking the law, and will be brought up on charges of child neglect.

So once again, I ask, Let the government pay for it, just as Pennsylvania and Rhode Island tried to do pre-1971 Lemon. Let's just figure out a constitutional way - i.e., two buildings, so we avoid excessive entanglement.

Should we look at other nations, like England, France, Canada, and others where religious education is paid for in a much more equitable fashion? I say, Yes. You'll find that the US Supreme Court, in a variety of cases, now sometimes will survey legal trends in other nations. Civilization is evolving, we live in a global village, and many legal observers see this as a positive trend. As do I.

Elliot Pasik

DAG said...

Elliot,

I don't disagree that Holocaust education is essential. It is the most clear example of what depths a "civilized" society can sink to. It's lessons are fundamental.

I think we need to separate 2 arguments.

1) It is fair, just and legal to employ a 2- school solution.

2) Jews have a history of persecution.

I would argue that the first argument CAN be made, IF a legitimate constitutional/legal argument IS made AND a compelling rationale is offered. BUT, we must be clear that reason #2 is NOT and can not be that compelling reason in the US.

I want to make 1 thing clear. I have enormous respect for you, Elliot. You are taking on the most important issues in our community, with creativity and passion. Having worked on the inside, I know how hard that can be. I want to be clear that I AM on your side...even if we disagree about how to solve this problem. I have always felt that serious discussion leads to better understating...and hopefully, in this case, a more effective solution.

Keep up the great work

Dag

Mo'ah Kemo Efro'ah said...

Elliot:

"The two-building idea is not an affirmative action nor entitlement program."

i don't think so either. yet you couched it in those terms by linking it to america's alleged responsibility to us in the wake of the holocaust, and by then referencing slavery, etc. (i.e., affirmative action).

Anonymous said...

Dag - Thank you for the chizuk.

MKE - America does not, per se, owe a debt to the Jews based on the Holocaust. Based on two thousand years of persecution, however, the Christian world does. Payment of that debt was partially made beginning with England's Balfour Declaration in the early 20th century, and the establishment of the State of Israel by the U.N. in 1948. There is a direct cause-and-effect link between the Holocaust, the culmination of 2,000 years of violent anti-Semitism, and Israel's establishment - I'm also far from the only one who says this.

The theoretical underpinnings for affirmative action for black Americans is that it is a form of reparations. Through its Bureau of Indian Affairs, America continues to make reparations to Native American Indians - from whom, after all, this country was stolen by white Christian European colonialists.

There is a passage in the Gemara that goes something like this. B'nei Yisroel took the gold and silver from the Mitzrim during the 3 days of choshech, darkness. Later, the Egyptian priests approached the Jews, asking for the gold and silver back. We responded that we worked for them for 210 years, we're entitled to wages. The Mitzri priests said, Give us 3 days, and we'll return with our answer. They never returned.

The world owes us a very big debt. I wouldn't call the two building solution an affirmative action program because there's no relaxation of college admission requirements, nor employment qualifications, etc. - those are typical attributes of affirmative action programs. The two building program is only a legal accommodation to religious minorities - Jews, Catholics, and a few others.

I live in Long Beach, New York, where the Yeshiva and Mesivta of Long Beach is located. Several years ago, they wanted to expand, but they needed a zoning variance, so a public zoning board hearing wss held, and of course, hundreds showed up opposing the variance. The Yeshiva had a lineup of about 5 speakers, including me, supporting the variance. We five made our comments, and the best was made by Rabbi Abittan, zl, the Rav of the Sephardic Shul, an absolutely brilliant man. He said loud and clear to the zoning board, in front of hundreds, that many of the students were the grandchildren and great grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, and while I don't recall the Rabbi's exact words, he basically said, YOU OWE US A MORAL DEBT! He was right.

Elliot Pasik

Mo'ah Kemo Efro'ah said...

elliot:

just for the record, i did not write that the two-building solution smacks of affirmative action.

as far as the holocaust, i think we are both just repeating the same thing, so let's just give it up.

i echo dag's sentiments, as i am interested in viable solutions to the tuition issue.

Bob Miller said...

"The world owes us a very big debt."

If we shove this in the world's face, the world (not exactly our buddies overall) will find ways to deny the debt, even if we gain some short-term advantage.

Anonymous said...

Bob -

I tend to agree with your sentiments. The "in your face" approach can be a turnoff. Grouping ourselves with other religious minorities who seek a sensible economic structure for educating our children will likely work better in the long run.

EP

Elliot Pasik

DAG said...

What worries me abut that, Elliot, even without the in your face attitude, is the fact that Americans do NOT see Jews as a minority in any real sense.

Bob Miller said...

Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I recall reading that some Jews living in Poland between the world wars aligned themselves politically with a minorities bloc in the Polish parliament (Sejm), and this ended up worsening Jewish relations with the majority Poles.

Anonymous said...

I've been down this road before. Two Jews, three opinions, and so on...Somebody says, its time for mincha. Maybe ma'ariv. The meeting adjourns without anything being accomplished. Stalemate, and the status quo does not change.

We have to do something. For the New Year, let's do something.

A happy, healthy, prosperous New Year to all. K'siva, v'chasima tovah.

Elliot Pasik

DAG said...

So...lets do something...DEMAND fiscal responsibility from ALL of our institutions. We control the purse..meaning we have the real power.

My wife was talking to a frum couple over Yom Tov that is being evicted from their apartment because they can't pay rent...and already pay their tuition on their credit card.

My wife works at a local day school as a teacher, even with her 3% raise AND an additional 17% percentage of tuition remission, her paycheck is 15-20% smaller than last year because of the increase in tuition (the normal annual increase and the standard difference between Nursery and Kindergarten) and the building fund.

I am not an alarmist...but we will ALL have to pay for our communal fiscal irresponsibility over the next few years. It WILL be painful. Let's end this madness.

mxh said...

what would it be like if one year in the fall when public school begins to have all the frum kids enroll? don't you think it might show the secular world just how much would need to be invested to pay for the costs of these additional pupils? this would be a good way to illustrate the savings accruing to secular parents by the existence of religious schools.

Chayil said...

My apologies for resurrecting a very old topic, but I'm fascinated by your entire blog, and am speed-reading the entire thing to absorb as much as I can. This post, though, makes me feel a need to speak what I suspect will be very rare: a disagreement.

I don't want school vouchers for parents who send their children to private schools, religious or otherwise. I firmly object to this practice. Why? Because even though my parents and grandparents have no school-aged children, they haven't stopped paying taxes to support children's education in public schools. Because even though I have no children, I pay taxes to support children's education in public schools. The benefit is that living in an educated society will enrich us all. I don't ever see that money again, and I don't have any children that will be educated with it, but I will still benefit from it. I am happy to pay for it, for the same reason I'm happy to pay taxes to support police and ambulance services even though I hope I never need them. The same reason I'm happy to pay taxes to support welfare even though I hope never to need it.

When I was going to school, I attended from 8:00 in the morning until 3:30 in the afternoon. Then afterward, I had an hour to do homework (usually in the car) on the way to other classes and commitments, because I was a child performer who had either a class, a lesson, or a performance just about every night of every week of my life until I left college and stopped performing. Yes, it was a huge time commitment, but I devoted myself to the things I wanted to learn AFTER I'd finished learning what the state mandated that I should learn. I still am not sure why children in religious families can't do the same thing I always did. I may not have had the benefit of a religious upbringing, but I certainly had a lot to do, and I did it all -- and still had a real relationship with my mother, including time spent together. Oh, and she worked full-time, too.

Taxes that support schools are a privilege to pay, not a burden. They benefit the entire society. You'll never see that money again, but aren't you glad that your non-Jewish neighbor's kids are getting to learn?